Editor’s Note: This is the eighth installment of a new series called “Illuminations,” which aims to highlight stories of cooperation, unity and diversity from across the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Illuminations is a communications initiative of the Illumination Project, a project of discernment and accompaniment involving CBF congregational leaders to illuminate the qualities that have built unity in CBF, and through discernment, identify intentional processes to maintain and grow unity through cooperation. Learn more about the Illumination Project at www.cbf.net/illuminationproject.
By Joshua Speight
The first years of congregational ministry are critically important for the establishment of practices and rhythms that sustain a life of excellent and faithful ministry. Flourishing as a minister is challenging, to say the least. Without the support of a congregation, helpful peers and nurturing friends it is easy to see how a minister could decide to turn away from their call to serve the church.
In my years as the Director of CBF Fellows, a two-year cohort for new ministers in their first full-time ministry position after seminary, I have seen how vital it is for ministers to be given the tools to help them flourish in ministry. Through their call to serve God through the congregation, ministers are uniquely called to give so much of themselves to others and often feel a sense of fulfillment and growth when they do. Yet, the work of the pastor is a demanding one that is not always understood or is even seen on during the Sunday or Wednesday that people see them at the church.
CBF Fellows seeks to surround new ministers and their congregations with the resources they need for engaging in ministry that is fulfilling and helps them to thrive. The work of the minister is constantly and rapidly changing and CBF is actively at work investing in these young clergy helping them to access their own tools to navigate these changes within their own congregational contexts.
Supporting the entire curriculum and program of CBF Fellows is a discernment process based on Dawnings – Welcoming a New Day in Your Church’s Missional Journey. Dawnings is CBF’s process that offers to help congregations and individuals see the world and their ministries within it with fresh clarity and purpose. Dawning invites participants to ask, “God, what would you have me to do?” and “God, what would you have me to be?” as they participate in the three processes of Forming, Engaging, and Visioning. Throughout the Fellows cohort we ask the ministers to consider the following questions based on Dawnings:
- How do we invite the God who is present among us to form us together?
- How do we join with the God who is present among us to do on Earth as it is in Heaven?
- How do we learn to see what the God who is present among us is doing?
These questions have led the cohort to embrace hard questions and to be uncomfortable with their own perceptions of how God works in the world. These questions have opened up their willingness to see God’s love in new ways. God has called some incredibly gifted ministers to serve the Church at a time when congregations will need courageous leadership. I am encouraged by their passion for the church and their willingness to live out of their calling.
CBF invests in the lives of these ministers because CBF is invested in the wellbeing of the congregation. Without the work of Christ’ Church in the world, it is hard to imagine how we could speak of grace or hope or love. The world is rapidly changing – we are all keenly aware of it recently. But it is the work of the minister through the church to discern good questions. Questions like, “God, what would you have me to do and what would you have me to be in this rapidly changing world?”
CBF Fellows is working alongside our new ministers and their congregations to invest in our communities so that we can offer the hope of the Lord Jesus Christ. When ministers flourish in their call to serve God, our churches flourish, and the love of God flourishes in the world. May all of our ministers thrive so that the perfect love of God will flourish among all of us in a world that desperately needs to know it and be healed by it.
Joshua Speight serves as the Missional Congregations Resources Manager for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.